Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Playing in a Minefield

I’m doing something I haven’t done for a very long time – playing with a nightly build of Firefox, or ‘Minefield’ as it’s known in the nightlies. My reasoning was two-fold:

  1. Previously I’ve been using Gran Paradiso Alpha 7 – though it’s mostly stable, it has a tendency to crash randomly. I’m unsure if it’s related to a plugin or JavaScript though. This nightly – so far – doesn’t seem to be afflicted.
  2. There are some nice new features since GPA7 which I wanted to try out.

These new features include:

  • New download manager. There are separate sections for completed, in progress and failed downloads. There’s also a search box, but the ‘Clear’ button has disappeared.
  • The bookmarks window now supports tagging, and there’s an ‘add bookmark’ button in the address bar, next to the feed button.
  • The Addons pane now has a third panel for Plugins, such as Flash, Java and QuickTime, and plugins can now be selectively disabled. I believe that Firefox will also receive information about updates to plugins and will disable old versions with known security vulnerabilities, but I haven’t been able to verify this.

This goes with the rest of the changes that are already in the browser, including the huge OS X platform changes which allow Firefox to use the Cocoa API, finally bring native widgets and also add Growl notification support. There’s also the new Page Info dialog, re-designed address bar dropdown and the browser history now defaults to 180 days. When closing Firefox, you’ll (optionally) be asked if you want to save your open tabs for next time, and an improved open-source crash reporter has been added which now works on Intel Macs. There’s also alterations to text rendering, which is especially noticeable on a Mac and makes for a definite improvement.


  1. A panel to disable flash would be awesome, I need it to work on a particular site I develop but I’m having serious issues with sound on Debian Unstable and so whenever flash starts making noise either my mp3 player or Firefox crashes. Asking if I want to save open tabs will also be nice, because currently I have to restart Firefox whenever my mp3 player crashes.
    However, the clear button on the download manager is really useful to have.

  2. I gave up on Firefox 2 in OS X just because I had so many minor bugs that drove me crazy trying to workaround.
    So at the moment, I am using the Safari 3 Beta and really like it (especially the slick inline search feature, which does circles around Firefox’s).
    When a Firefox 3 Beta is out, I will definitely try it and see if I can switch back. I have always had a soft spot for this browser (still use it on my work PC, since I absolutely cannot stand IE7).

  3. I had no idea that FF3.0 was Cocoa based! That alone makes it well worth it!
    The lack of Cocoa with FF has been a bit of an annoyance for me. Most of my apps are Cocoa based except FF.
    I’ve been using someone’s guide for being able to have both running without destroying settings and extensions that are loaded in 2.0. I don’t remember where I found that guide, but if you look for minefield and FF2.0 together, you might be able to find it.
    Thanks for digging into what the FF team is doing, Neil.

  4. Dave – the Cocoa support isn’t quite as good as Camino. It does mean that dialogs and so on appear much, much quicker than before, and improves on copy and paste, but you don’t get access to the Services menu for example. So Firefox 3 will continue to use its own spellchecker rather than the OS X one, however, it will be using hunspell rather than aspell which is much better.
    There may be some more OS X improvements to come though – I’ve heard he possibility of Bonjour support and home pages from contacts in Address Book appearing in the Bookmarks manager, though whether this will make it into Firefox 3 I don’t know.